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At first when I saw the Fine Dining Link atop the Booking.com homepage, I thought perhaps it was a test gone awry in anticipation of the closing of the Priceline Group’s $2.6 billion acquisition of OpenTable, which should take place in the third quarter.
Now that I understand what’s going on, I think it is one of the weirdest homepage tabs I’ve seen by a major online travel company.
That’s because when you select the Fine Dining tab, there is no information about fine dining. No restaurants, no cafes, no bistros. Nada.
Not even a food truck.
All you find is hotels.
Booking.com spokesperson Andre Manning explains that the Fine Dining search is part of a Destination Finder feature, which enables travelers to pick destinations based on their interests.
“The ‘fine dining’ tab provides travelers with accommodation recommendations within those cities around the world that have been endorsed by Booking.com users post-stay, in their reviews, for great quality and tasting food,” Manning says. “This is just another tool that helps our customers find and experience a delightful stay.”
So if you select Fine Dining on the Booking.com homepage and then pick New York City, you will find listings for 717 hotels. There is no information about area restaurants.
In fact, the first hotel listing was Park Central, and among a list of “6 Reasons to Pick Park Central,” none had anything to do with dining, fine or otherwise.
To make matters worse, when you just do a standard search on Booking.com for hotels in New York City, there are also 717 properties listed. So apparently any hotel in the city is situated close to a top-notch restaurant.
The list of destinations that come up when you browse by theme are the top destinations for that theme, as chosen by users writing Booking.com reviews, but it seems so lacking in utility.
The same principle is at work for the other elements of Booking.com’s Browse by Destination Theme feature — i.e. Shopping, Beach, Sightseeing, Monuments and Culture.
All you’ll find is hotel listings after searching by one of these themes, and there will scant information about these various interests.
And, there is little filtering.
If you browse booking.com for “Shopping” in Banff, Alberta, Canada, there are 94 hotels listed.
And, when you just do a standard search on Booking.com for hotels in Banff, there are likewise 94 properties listed.
Search by monuments in Anaheim, California, and the same dynamic is at play: There are 110 properties listed, and if you just search for hotels in Anaheim, the same 110 properties appear.
Another problem with the “Browse by Destination Theme” feature is the design. The words “Browse by Destination Theme” are in a relatively small point size, and it’s possible to miss the fact that this is theme-oriented search.
If you just view the Fine Dining tab, you expect to find restaurant information.
It all feels like a bait and switch, and adds little, if any, value for travelers.